• Brianne Rose-Baker

Books Are Therapeutic (1-5)

Updated: Apr 10

Welcome to my first book review blog!

If you don’t already know, I’m an avid book reader. I wake up and read. I go on road trips and sit in the passenger seat reading. I have a weekly “reading day” where I don’t turn on my television and make sure I read all day off and on. Reading checks a few self care boxes for me:

  • It keeps me present.

  • It calms me.

  • It allows me to learn about new topics and people.

That being said, there are two specific groups of texts that I absolutely refuse to read. Those texts are anything blatantly psychology related and self help texts. I know, that feels like it goes directly against what a therapist should be reading and that’s kind of the point. I spent years studying psychology and therapy in school. Pleasure reading is about exploring other aspects of myself and the interests I have. More importantly, mental health is related to everything in life. Reading books forces me to connect to mental health in a unique way keeps me in tune with myself and how I process the importance of mental health.

I wish more people pleasure read.

As an attempt to spread the word that reading is a therapeutic act, I’ll be reviewing each book I read and connecting them to mental health topics and sometimes sharing how they left me feeling. My reading goal this year is to read 50 books. If I succeed, this will be the most books I’ll have ever read in a year. Seriously. I’m super excited about it! I’m currently on book 13!

Thus, without further ado, here’s a review of the first five books I read this year. Each book has a link to their Goodreads page.

1. Tao Te Ching, translation by Stephen Mitchell

Mental Health Topic: Self exploration

Rating: *****

This is a quick and easy read to knock out and I truly believe everyone should read it. On the surface it’s full of contradictions that can leave you thinking, “Is this dude actually saying anything?” After some reflection, you realize that life is full of contradictions and it feels like Lao Tzu is not only pointing that out, but accepting it. This is a great book for folks that are chronic planners and full of anxiety. Something about the passages left me feeling calm and reflective on how I handle situations that are out of my control. I generally try to handle new situations with grace and acceptance, but reading this validated that for me. However, I want to emphasize that this book will be interpreted in a different way for everyone. I know how this sounds, but just trust me and give it a read.

2. Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So

Various mental health topics

Rating: *****

This is a collection of short stories. I appreciate when writers are able to write quick, engaging short stories. Short stories are super underappreciated. The author is a Cambodian American and each story is written from that perspective. I loved this book. It’s less directly related to one mental health topic and sheds some light on many with various types of people in differing situations.

3. Choke by Chuck Palahniuk

Mental Health Topic: Unhealthy coping strategies

Rating: *****

Warning: Heavy drug use, addiction, and intense sexual situations

If you enjoyed reading or watching Fight Club, you’ll love this book. It’s quick witted, laugh out loud funny at times, and has an ending that I was definitely not anticipating. The main character is trying to get answers around some parental issues he has and copes by using drugs and having dangerous (honestly sometimes scary to read) sex. It exemplifies how unhealthy coping skills hurt us even more.

4. Punch Me Up To the Gods by Brian Broome

Mental Health Topic: Abuse

Rating: **

Warning: Familial abuse

This is honestly a really powerful book and blatantly mental health related. It’s a memoir of Broome’s childhood and young adult life and perfectly illustrates what happens when people around you treat you like shit and you take their thoughts and opinions as your own. He grows up in fear of coming out to his family and eventually grows into a young man that dislikes himself, his skin color, and treats those around him just as poorly as he has been treated. I gave this book two stars because I truly believe that no matter how poorly others treat us, we never ever have the right to through extension put that treatment to outside individuals. This is how the cycle of hate continues. I disagreed with Broome during many of the stories that he shares and felt like it was page after page of people abusing one another.

5. Deadeye Dick by Kurt Vonnegut

Mental Health Topic: Challening one's self

Rating: ****

First, it feels like this is important to share-- Vonnegut is my favorite author. I love everything he writes and always enjoy reading his work. I gave this book a four because I enjoyed it slightly less than some others I’ve read by him (My favorite Vonnegut’s are Sirens of Titan, Breakfast of Champions, and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater). Without giving too many details about the story itself, Deadeye Dick feels like a statement on what happens when we categorize and judge ourselves and others. Furthermore, it’s a statement about the negatives that can happen if we get too deep into our comfort zones and don’t seek change or challenges. The story itself involves an accidental double murder, a neutron bomb ending a city, and random but pleasant character development for characters that… are main characters in another one of his novels. There’s a lot going on here, but that’s kind of how Vonnegut rolls. It’s a very fun read!

Like I said earlier, I’m currently reading book number 13 for the year. So look out for my next five books! Let me know if you have any questions or comments around these or my reading process. Hope you enjoyed!

With love,